Food & drink survey

Cost cutting helps firms hit net zero targets

Fine food
Food and drink firms have been hard hit by inflation

Food firms coping with rising costs and other challenges are accidentally improving their green credentials.

HSBC business adviser Allan Wilkinson told a seminar on food and drink held in Edinburgh that some companies pushed net zero ambitions down their list of priorities as they battled with the “here and now”.

But by instigating a range of energy-saving and other cost-cutting measures to offset rising bills, they also improved their carbon footprint.

“As businesses were in survival mode you realised many were inadvertently following their sustainability plans far quicker than they expected because they were having to find ways to save energy, or use raw materials better,” he said.

“It means that many businesses are actually further ahead than they might have been.”

The seminar, attended by about 60 food and drinks company representatives, was organised by accountancy and business advisory firm Johnston Carmichael at the offices of Morton Fraser to consider the results of an annual survey on the sector.

While most of the 129 respondents reported higher raw material, energy and labour costs, 59% were either optimistic or very optimistic about their growth prospects and only 11% (equating to 14 firms) were not positive about the next 12 months.

The annual report bringing the data together notes that the food and drink sector has been disproportionately hit by inflation compared to other industries.

While firms had cut costs or raised prices, many smaller firms had been unable to follow the example of bigger firms by investing in technology to improve their balance sheets and throughput. This demanded action at a macro-economic level, says the report.

More firms were compensating for a loss of trade with the EU by selling more into the UK market. In some cases they were replacing products previously imported from Europe.

However, there is condemnation of HMRC’s perceived lack of support to businesses involved in cross-border trade from a VAT and Duty perspective.

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